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"When camping in a forest setting, it is always advisable to suspend all foodstuffs and refuse high above the ground by means of a rope tied to the branch of a tree. Otherwise many curious and unwelcome four-legged visitors will come to scrounge, creating havoc, rendering provisions unusable and becoming a general nuisance.
This holds true whether camping in Yellowstone Park or in the Jungles of Africa.
Among the many scavengers we have encountered in our travels through the dense rain forests of Gabon, none has proved more tenacious than the SPOTTED HYENA (hyaena crocuta).
Can you imagine my fright at about 2:00 am this morning, when I was suddenly awakened by the alarming sensation of my right foot being violently pulled from my leg?. Apparently, during my fitful attempts to achieve a comfortable postion, one of my feet must have worked itself through the flap of this rather cramped tent. My first reassuring thought was that one of our party was playing a little joke on your old Professor friend.
I instinctively pulled my foot away from the agressor and jumped up to look outside. To my utter astonishment, I could see quite clearly in the moonlight, a spotted Hyena standing brazenly not more than twenty feet away. The beast was looking at me quizzically with my thick red woolen sock clamped between its powerful jaws; which of course, he was welcome to keep.....after all, it had saved me from suffering the ravages of his formidable teeth.
Incidentally, their dentition is calculated for great tearing and crushing power, and includes six incisors and two canine teeth in each jaw, five molars on each side of the upper jaw, and four in the under. They seize an object with so firm a hold that among Arabs they are proverbial for obstinacy.
After careful reflection, I am convinced that the beast had only begun to tug on my foot and hadn't yet applied its iron grip, when I suddenly jerked it away.
Following this unsettling experience, although nary sustaining a scratch, all further hope of obtaining a decent night's sleep departed forthwith.
I picked up a book and commenced reading, by the kerosene lantern, about this interesting creature.
"This formidable beast is larger than either the striped or the brown Hyena, and is yellowish, thickly spotted with black, with nose and feet dark. It inhabits nearly all Africa south of the Sahara, hunts in packs, is courageous, and really does most of the ravaging it is accused of.
Its unearthly coughing cry is one of the most terrifying of animal utterances. Owing to the peculiar arrangement of the reproductive organs in this species, it is extremely difficult to distinguish the sexes by external characteristics, and from this fact the old myth that hyenas are hermaphrodites has doubtless arisen.
In size they equal the largest dogs. The hind quarters are lower and weaker than the fore quarters of the body, so that hyenas move with a shambling gait. The body is covered with long coarse hair, forming a mane along the neck and back.
The feet have each four toes. The claws are strong, fit for digging, and not retractile. The tail is short. Beneath the anus is a deep glandular pouch, contributing much to the offensive odor which is one of their many disagreeable characteristics.
They prowl about towns and villages, and often dig up corpses that have not been deeply buried. This, together with their aspect and manners, has caused them to be generally regarded with horror, and very exaggerated accounts of their fierceness have been prevalent.
Instead of being untamable, as was long the popular belief, they are capable of being completely tamed, and show an attachment to man similar to that of the dog; they have even been used as watchdogs."
I would seriously suggest the possibility of breeding these interesting animals for use as family pets and watchdogs, although it would be strongly advised to have the hitherto mentioned, 'offensive pouch' removed by a skilled Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (as long as this would not cause pain, distress, or lower the quality of life of this marvellous creature).
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